The US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community.
As the first step, NTIA is asking the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS).
“We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society, and other Internet organizations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process,” said Fadi ChehadÃ©, ICANN’s President and CEO. “All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners.”
NTIA’s responsibility includes the procedural role of administering changes to the authoritative root zone file – the database containing the lists of names and addresses of all top-level domains – as well as serving as the historic steward of the DNS. NTIA currently contracts with ICANN to carry out the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions and has a Cooperative Agreement with Verisign under which it performs related root zone management functions. Transitioning NTIA out of its role marks the final phase of the privatization of the DNS as outlined by the U.S. Government in 1997.
“The timing is right to start the transition process,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling. “We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”
ICANN is uniquely positioned, as both the current IANA functions contractor and the global coordinator for the DNS, as the appropriate party to convene the multistakeholder process to develop the transition plan. NTIA has informed ICANN that it expects that in the development of the proposal, ICANN will work collaboratively with the directly affected parties, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Society (ISOC), the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), top level domain name operators, VeriSign, and other interested global stakeholders.
NTIA has communicated to ICANN that the transition proposal must have broad community support and address the following four principles:
- Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
- Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
- Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and,
- Maintain the openness of the Internet.
NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.
From the inception of ICANN, the US Government and Internet stakeholders envisioned that the US role in the IANA functions would be temporary. The Commerce Department’s June 10, 1998 Statement of Policy stated that the US Government “is committed to a transition that will allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS management.”
ICANN as an organization has matured and taken steps in recent years to improve its accountability and transparency and its technical competence. At the same time, international support continues to grow for the multistakeholder model of Internet governance as evidenced by the continued success of the Internet Governance Forum and the resilient stewardship of the various Internet institutions.
While stakeholders work through the ICANN-convened process to develop a transition proposal, NTIA’s current role will remain unchanged. The current IANA functions contract expires September 30, 2015.
Independent of the US transition, the roles of the Internet technical organizations, including ICANN’s role as administrator of the Internet’s unique identifier system, remain unchanged. The Internet’s Unique Identifier functions are not apparent to most Internet users, but they play a critical role in maintaining a single, global, unified and interoperable Internet.
“Even though ICANN will continue to perform these vital technical functions, the US has long envisioned the day when stewardship over them would be transitioned to the global community,” said Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, ICANN’s Board Chair. “In other words, we have all long known the destination. Now it is up to our global stakeholder community to determine the best route to get us there.”
“The global multistakeholder process is defined by inclusion, and it will take some time to make sure that we obtain all of the necessary inputs,” said ChehadÃ©. “By the time the current contract with the US Government expires in September 2015, we will have a defined and clear process for global multistakeholder stewardship of ICANN’s performance of these technical functions.”
The first community-wide dialogue about the development of the transitional process will begin March 23-27 during ICANN’s 49th Public Meeting, in Singapore. All global stakeholders are welcome to participate in person or remotely.
“This is a historical step in making Internet governance truly global, and marks major progress towards the development of a multi-stakeholder model as advocated in the Commission’s recent Communication” commented Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda.
“It is a very timely announcement, ahead of an important multi-stakeholder conference in São Paulo on Internet governance principles and the future evolution of the governance ecosystem” she added. “The European Commission will work together with the US and with all global stakeholders to implement the globalization of the IANA functions in a process that is accountable and transparent, and in a manner that secures the open Internet and that will underpin human rights.”